Symptoms of Death by Paula Paul is the first book in the Dr. Alexandra Gladstone Mystery series. It is set in small town Newton-upon-Sea in turn of the century England. Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is the town's only doctor who has taken over her father's surgery after he's passed away. When she is invited to Edward Boswick - the Fifth Earl of Dunsford's country estate for a friendly gathering, she is a guest among the most noble of British Aristocracy. But, when their host turns up strangled in his bed the next morning, it is up to Alexandra to help exonerate a lowly scullery maid of the crime, and lead the Constable to the real murderer.
This book had a very Upstairs, Downstairs feel to it. With characters ranging from Elsie, the scullery maid and Cook, who are "below" stairs, and Nicholas Forsythe and Lady Atewater, who are "above" stairs, the social class lines are clearly drawn. The author does a wonderful job showing the reader the two very different worlds of those who reside above and those who reside below.
Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is a strong character who is able to stand her ground in a man's profession. Even though she is considered upper-class, she has no problem putting her contemporaries in their places - all of whom had motive to murder the Earl.
My gut reaction: I love this book!
I loved the setting of the fabled English Estate. I felt totally absorbed and immersed in the characters... the way they dressed, their manner of speaking, their actions and mannerisms. Paula Paul really grasped the feel of the story's era. Upstairs, Downstairs is one of my most favorite tv series ever and I was thrilled to find a book series with that same vibe.
There are two more books in this series: An Improper Death, and Half a Mind to Murder. Both of these are on their way to me as we speak. I can't wait to get started!
My sleep-loss meter: 4 under-eye bags! Historical fans will eat this book up in no time! But it was not a fast -paced action-packed story. I don't know if it's because it takes place in Britain, but it had a very genteel, slow vibe. Not boring, mind you. Just not "keep you on the edge of your seat" suspense.
All-in-all, definitely worth the historical mystery fanatic's time. You will wake up with bags under your eyes!